MEN'S HOCKEY: Bitzer joins Bemidji native for 2nd all-time in NCAA career shutouts
BEMIDJI -- Michael Bitzer entered a select club with his 20th career shutout last Friday night.
The Bemidji State goaltender’s 3-0 shutout win at Lake Superior State tied him for second all-time in NCAA men’s hockey history.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Bitzer on his achievement. “To be honest, I didn’t really know until it was brought up the other day. It’s pretty cool to see those other names up there, too. (I’m) mostly excited to get the wins though.”
The goalie he moved into a tie with?
Bemidji native and former Vermont netminder Joe Fallon: Two of the top three shutout leaders in NCAA history have Bemidji connections.
“It’s a small hockey world,” Bitzer said. “Actually, I think his picture’s up at the city rink. I’ve seen that before, so it’s pretty cool.”
“Good for him,” Fallon said when reached by phone from his home in Burlington, Vt. “I’ve heard he’s having a good year.”
Fallon, a 2003 graduate of Bemidji High School, played four seasons for the Catamounts from 2004-2008 and posted a career 63-51-17 record with a 2.06 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. Following his freshman year, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Fallon in the sixth round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
After his college days, Fallon spent five seasons bouncing around the AHL and the ECHL before playing in Europe where he made stops in Norway, Denmark, Germany and Scotland.
Bitzer and Fallon sport similar career numbers (Bitzer is 60-46-16 with a 1.97 goals against average and .922 save percentage) and both own nearly every goaltending record at their respective programs.
The two goaltenders are also alike in their desire to share the spotlight with their teammates.
“Looking back at it, shutouts (are) kind of a team stat I think,” Fallon said. “And I think a lot of goalies think that way -- that it takes the whole team to shut down a team.”
Bitzer, who is also the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s all-time shutouts leader, is up to four shutouts on the season with an 11-5-5 record and has recorded six straight wins for the streaking Beavers. The senior from Moorhead will take a 2.19 goals against average and a .911 save percentage into this weekend’s home-and-home series with North Dakota.
“He’s so mentally tough, he’s so focused,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said of the 2016-17 Hobey Baker finalist. “He comes to the rink ready to play. If you’re going to have that many shutouts, you have to have some special attributes and he just has those attributes. I wish he had three or four more years of eligibility, but it doesn’t work that way.”
You have probably heard of the only goalie ahead of Bitzer and Fallon, too -- Ryan Miller, the U.S. Olympic silver medallist and NHL All-Star who posted 26 shutouts for Michigan State from 1999-2002.
Yes, Bitzer has moved into select company, but what might be even more impressive is this -- one-third of his career wins (60) have been shutouts.
“Yeah, that’s crazy,” said Bitzer. “But like I said, I’m more focused about the wins, no matter how we get them. That’s the big thing.”